Open letter to the UN Security Council on the Central African Republic | Louise Arbour, International Crisis Group
The Security Council must take decisive action this month to prevent further deterioration in the Central African Republic (CAR). Since the coup by Seleka rebels on 24 March, the state has collapsed. Lawlessness and disorder prevail throughout the country, including in the capital city, Bangui.
The CAR faces four main challenges:
1. A security crisis: Banditry is rife in the provinces but also the capital, where Seleka fighters attack civilians, hijack vehicles belonging to UN agencies and NGOs and recently shot an African peacekeeper and a humanitarian worker. This banditry has triggered the establishment of local self-defence groups and clashes between Muslim and Christian communities that fuel insecurity and deepen the risk of violence against civilians.
2. A humanitarian crisis: The humanitarian situation is rapidly worsening, with mounting reports of large-scale human rights abuses. According to OCHA, more than 1.6 million people need urgent humanitarian assistance, including about 400,000 persons displaced within the country and 64,000 refugees in neighbouring countries.
3. A stalled political transition: Deteriorating security limits the ability of the transitional government to begin implementing the Libreville agreement and the N’Djamena summit’s decisions. Transitional institutions are in place, with a roadmap elaborated, but they have been unable to restore security and restart basic services. The political transition that began on 18 August should conclude in eighteen months with free and fair elections that members of the transitional government are prohibited from contesting.
4. A collapsed state: The CAR is in complete disarray. Ministries have been looted, state infrastructure has been destroyed in the provinces, fiscal revenues are close to zero, and civil servants have fled to the capital. In short, the country can not deliver the most basic public goods.
The Security Council adopted Resolution 2121 only nine months after the Libreville agreement, which partly explains why political and military means to support its implementation were lacking. Resolution 2121 seeks to reinforce and widen the mandate of the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in the Central African Republic (BINUCA) and calls for the establishment of an African Union-led international support mission for the CAR (MISCA) – both welcome steps. Now, however, the Council must act faster, initially to help those on the ground restore law and order and then to reverse the country’s chronic fragility. Under a Chapter VII mandate, it could greatly contribute through the following steps:
To stabilise the situation on the ground
1. Provide emergency support, with appropriate funding, for the earliest and full deployment of the AU-led MISCA force and encourage the AU to ensure:
a. deployment of a mission with a clear focus on civilian protection and restoration of law and order;
b. a significant police component; and
c. establishment of a secure environment conducive to the provision of humanitarian assistance to the population.
2. Mandate French forces to contribute to the restoration of law and order.
3. Encourage French forces and other countries to provide much-needed intelligence support to MISCA.
4. Encourage African countries to provide additional, capable and well-equipped troops to MISCA.
5. Ensure the swift design and implementation of a disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) program in coordination with the transitional authorities and potential donors.
6. Deploy UN peacekeepers to secure UN offices and their personnel, the DDR camps and Bangui airport.
To facilitate BINUCA’s support to the transitional authorities
7. Authorise BINUCA to support the transitional authorities to:
a. restore law and order by assisting in the design of an emergency plan to restore and redeploy the CAR police, “gendarmerie” and judicial and penitentiary services, first in Bangui, then in the provinces;
b. prepare and implement a comprehensive security sector reform with the assistance of other partners; and
c. restore and redeploy the civilian administration in the provinces in coordination with MISCA and other partners.
8. Authorise an electoral assessment mission to propose an action plan, budget and realistic timeframe for the conduct of credible elections.
9. Authorise BINUCA to assist, together with donors, transitional authorities improve their capacity to manage natural resources.
The CAR has suffered repeated cycles of instability and violence since the 1990s. Urgent and concerted international action is required now to halt its slide into chaos and prevent conflict. As a first step, the Security Council should ensure effective support to the AU-led mission. Failure to take swift action risks further destabili¬sation that imperils not only the CAR and its people but also the entire region.
President & CEO
FULL LETTER (International Crisis Group)
Photo: Bureau intégré des Nations Unies en Centrafrique/Flickr